Salmonella, Howard and Berry Springs & Nudists

Trip Start Jul 10, 2008
Trip End Jul 10, 2011

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Flag of Australia  , Northern Territory,
Thursday, September 25, 2008

It arrived - the furniture that is. We can't tell you how nice it is to be on a bed after 6 weeks on an air mattress!

We kept getting update emails on where our stuff was, it kept getting pushed back a day here an few days there. It was getting frustrating, even two days before it was meant to arrive it got pushed back another week. Erica had been out of town for a couple of weeks collecting results for an experiment, I was getting bed envy, although she assured me her bed was a not too comfy twin size top bunk!

Our container had been on the Maersk Jenaz and what is really cool was it had a GPS device on it and you could track where it was. You can still get to the link for this ship!

Click on the longitude/latitude link and Google will give you a precise mapped location! Somewhere south of the Isle of Wight as I write this! Once our ship arrived in Sydney we expected it to start chugging up to Darwin, but is started heading south! It seems our container got off loaded is Sydney and was trucked the rest of the way. It took about another 10 days then for it to clear customs and for it to be delivered - the good thing is the customs people didn't pick up on any issues such as muddy mountain bikes or African wooden art work. We already knew from other online forums that they were a pretty tough bunch. Wridgeways were our movers and to be fair they were pretty good. They had our container unloaded in the best part of 6 hours. The one item damaged was a painting that hadn't been wrapped properly in the USA and had got all scratched up. Hopefully insurance will pay for that, but everything else seemed fine. The biggest laugh from the movers came when they unpacked the didgeridoo - this was labelled as a rain stick.
They also kept asking what 'tote' was - I wasn't sure myself, but guessed it meant miscellaneous! Nearly every box packed in the USA was labelled as tote!

We knew our 3 bedroom house in Foxboro was a lot bigger than our new place and were concerned everything would not fit in the new place, but to our surprise it ended up being about right. We could have done with a little larger storage area as everything is a bit packed in there, but it shouldn't be a big issue as most of the stuff in there won't come out too often. For example we're not going to have too much need for a mountaineers Patagonia down jacket around these parts!

We seemed to spend about two whole weekends just buying leads and plugs that would fit the outlets over here. Some plugs had to be cut off and rewired to an Aussie plug. Some items had to be wired through a 240 to 110v transformer. We bought new leads for the items that were 240v/110v compatible. We needed converted plugs for some items and to make matters worse, just like our house in Foxboro there were only about 4 sets of plug outlets in the whole house. In one bedroom that we're using more as an office we have about 10 devices that we plug in! Not sure how safe that actually is, but we do try to rotate them to just the ones we need! I did manage to get electrocuted by my computer at some point after one complicated procedure to get DVDs playing through our TV. The earphones have never worked since!

Since we have arrived we've had a whole palaver with watching DVDs, something we didn't realise would happen. All our DVDs from the USA are region 1 with a picture type called NTSC. All DVDs in Australia are region 4 with a picture type called PAL. Needless to say any DVDs we get from the video store over here won't work on our USA DVD player. We found out that you can change the regions on your computer but only 4 times! After you change it 4 times it is impossible to change it again. So we have each of our computers set up to different regions. We also need one set up to region 2 as a lot of the things that seem to come from the library that are BBC programs only work on region 2! It started getting a bit frustrating when borrowing quality English DVDs such as Open All Hours and have them not work!

We were told that our nice 42' inch plasma TV would probably not work over here and we'd end up with an expensive black box. This is because the TV pictures over here are in the PAL format and the ones in the USA are in the NTSC format - they have a different refresh rates. We did of course ignore all that advice and went with some yahoo on the Internet who said as long as you feed the TV picture through a VCR player to your TV you should be fine. We should have known not to trust some second hand opinion on the Internet, it of course did not work, even the antenna connections over here are different! So we have an expensive black box that will play US DVDs only! Luckily my friend Al is on the job and we have an all region DVD player getting shipped from the USA that will play PAL or NTSC onto our NTSC TV. We will however never be able to watch regular TV on our big screen. We're not big TV watchers though and will probably buy a little screen for watching the news and such!

We've become quite the gardeners since moving into our new place. Our house is owned by the gardener who maintains our condo complex, so in the main part our garden is decent and it seems like new flowers sprout on the bushes every week. We've been growing some herbs ourselves and seeing how green our fingers are, thyme, parsley, Thai basil, lemon basil, cinnamon basil and purple basil. We wanted some cilantro but all we could find was a Mexican variety, I think this made Erica happy and although we're struggling to get it growing I'm sure we'll be successful. We also have some tropical tomatoes, jalapenos, spring onions and most importantly tomatillos ready to make my Mexican lady happy with a nice salsa verde! The conditions for basil must be pretty good here, in about 4 weeks we've already had a couple of harvests of pants from seed! We have also loaded up out house with a couple of plants. A peace lily, an elephant ears that has some fantastically striped leaves and a zebra plant with lovely yellow striped leaves also. We have noticed that a lot of the plants that would be houseplants back in Boston can be used as outdoor plant here. I guess the tropics are where they came from originally!

I'm now officially a woodworker, finally taken a leave from the old mans book - I have to say it's pleasurable working with wood. Nothing too much really apart from some varnishing and refinishing one of Erica's older tables. I thought I'd made a real balls-up bleaching out some water stains at one point but I think we've salvaged it!

I did mention in one of our first blogs that we went to Cullen Bay - well we went back there to the same restaurant we went that first week - the little bit pricey Buzz Cafe. But for a waterfront seat and well-cooked fish and chips the price tag is worth it. I forgot to mention the toilets the first time - well the urinal is a one way mirror, so get this down comes the fly and you're there doing your business against what looks like a glass window with a table two feet away as you stand there and watch a family enjoying their Barramundi and chips! Just to add to the awkward feeling of being stood there feeling like your showing yourself to the world, unsure if they can see you or not, one of the stalls opens only for a lady to pop out! It was a strange moment for sure! We quickly paid the bill after that incident and left!

Well I better mention some of the places I've been in the area since last time. One weekend while Erica was away I thought I'd check out Berry Springs - nice walks and swim holes was what I was expecting - it was about 50km away and was packed when I arrived. The swim holes were basically full of people knocking back the grog as was the grassy picnic areas. It was sort of nice, but not too sure about going there for a whole day on the grog that it seemed like the popular option. There was a little walk in the park, it went past a huge banyan tree and I saw plenty of birds and wallabies, but not one person from the packed car park was on the walk. We've both been back since after some rain and out of the 50 cars in the car park we could see from the footprints there had not been one person who had done the trail! We did see one new bird also, a Northern Fantail.

Another weekend when Erica was away I did a trip up to Buffalo Creak and Lee Point. Buffalo Creak is a place where a lot of fishermen head out from and Lee Point is a northern tip and one of the only places you can see the sun coming up over the sea around where we live. There are always lots of birds around here and some of the most beautiful long sweeping beaches around. Lee Point is also the northern point of the bike path that comes all the way up from Darwin. I like it up here.

The same weekend I also went to Charles Darwin National Park. There is not too much to it except some WWII bunkers and some short walks. The WWII bunker wasn't really my thing, but I did a short, pleasant walk in the woods and added Red Headed Honey Eater to my bird list. I'm sure this park has a lot more potential than the few short walks it has, it does stretch all the way down to the coast and to some mangrove swamps!

When Erica returned we went on another watering hole expedition out to Howard Springs hoping for a dip

Here is another interesting article on how the spring is fed.

Unfortunately swimming is not allowed because of something in the water that can be passed on to humans! We did to the 1.8km walk though and added a Shining Flycatcher to our list.

Knuckey Lagoons are another place I ventured out to where I met a nice older couple of birders with a telescope that helped me identify a few new birds. Most interestingly though they showed me a cane toad trap! For anyone who has Netflix or access to Amazon, a library or video store that stocks it, watch 'Cane Toads - An Unnatural History'. It's a great documentary on the ecological disaster wrought on Australia when cane toads were introduced to kill the sugar cane bugs. Queensland is now overrun with them. One girl in the program has what looks like a 10lb toad for a pet. Cane toads recently made it to The Territory and there are traps where the toads go in but can't get out, there are even kill a cane toad nights when people go and hunt them! Good riddance I say!

Oh I have to mention our attempted croc attack - don't worry we were baiting it, only ourselves to blame! On another trip to Fogg Dam we could see a Freshie right by the road, with about 10 of us stood close by he rushed us from water and up the bank to the road - he was only a little one but it was enough for a few stumbling steps backwards and a cheap adrenaline rush! We have read about night walks also at Fogg Dam - these sound real interesting and are something we definitely need to do some time!

I should take this opportunity to write it was Oct. 10th when we saw our first Christmas things in the supermarket - they already have plum pudding, Christmas puddings, mince pies, Christmas trees and more. For those of you Americans not familiar with those vital food groups I'm sure there will be something coming up in later blogs assuming I'm still writing!

I think I mentioned before the shops are a bit tight here regarding returns, Erica's work colleague returned a remote control car that did not work. The box had been slightly ripped by his young kid as he opened the box in excitement. Even though the car never worked at all they gave them no refund because the box was ripped! A bit different than REI, for those of you who know it they will take things back after years even if it's well used and all you normally have to say is you didn't like it or it didn't fit! Well that seems a bit excessive, but take the route some Aussie stores take and I'm pretty sure that store just lost a customer. I think in any store if you loose your receipt you're screwed.

It's definitely nice to feel a bit more settled and have our little routines back. Erica definitely likes her routines. We got our bikes and now Erica can cycle to work, we got a basket for the front and a rack for the back. People use milk crates and attach them with plastic ties to the back rack - it makes a nice back basket. We followed the locals and had a late night trip to our local Woolies to 'borrow' some crates, and I like it because now I can give Erica the shopping list on a morning and let her load her bike up with groceries on the way home! I often go out and meet her after work and have a bit of an additional workout by cycling up bike path a bit by myself beforehand. We have a lot of cycle paths in the area, but the one that goes past our house goes all the way from Darwin all the way to Lee Point along the coast most of the way. Our house is at the half point, with the university about 15 minutes further north so it's ideal for Erica's ride. I have to mention the nudist beach. There is a half kilometre section that allows nudity, there is a nice bike path set a little way back and nudity is on the beach only. Well not that it bothers me too much, but I cycled up behind an older man on the bike one morning, buck naked, but I had to laugh at his key tied around him with string dangling down his butt crack! I normally say a cheery morning to must people, but not this gentleman!

We have a number of video stores close to us, Video Ezy is our closest, we get our special offers through the post or go on a Tuesday when it's $1 or $2 new release night. We have a number of take-out places we like - Ming Court in Jingili does the most fantastic Thai pizza - I know it's all sounds a bit strange, a Chinese place cooking Thai flavoured pizza! The stuff is to die for! Its topped with shrimp and loaded up with some fantastic herbs. We have a Chinese seafood place, Loong Fong that does excellent Chinese close to us in Nightcliff and the Thai Thai Restaurant in Casuarina. In Australia most places are BYO, so for a few dollars you can turn up with your own bottle of plonk and save a bit on your booze bill. I would have to say though all the places above lack a bit on the atmosphere and often takeout is the best option.

We do have a Dominos close to us and although cheap we would recommend staying away - we were seriously amazed this place hadn't been closed down because of child labour laws, I saw nobody in the kitchen who looked a day over 14. I was seriously wondering who was running the show. Watching these spotty school kids preparing your pizza and put it on the conveyer belt into the oven didn't inspire confidence in the hygiene quality of your pizza and after getting sick the next day we decided we probably wouldn't be frequenting that establishment again! Next to Dominos we have the Pickled Octopus, now this was an exciting prospect for me - after 10 years in the USA a local fish and chip shop again. The first time we went there we took out fish down to Nightcliff and the fish was fresh with a great batter. We got enough chips to feed an army and that gave us some entertainment with the seagulls with our leftovers! The second time we went there the fish was half cooked and the batter was soggy in the middle. This is certainly not the way to keep a Yorkshireman happy and we haven't been back. Again it all comes down to which 18 year old kid you have working the fryer a lot of times in these places! If anyone knows of a good chipper in Darwin please let me know!

To become a true Aussie household we also had to purchase a stubby holder. These are insulated jackets for your beer glass/bottle and people even take their own to the pub with them. They don't like warm beer over here! Oh I should mention a stubby is a short bottle of beer about the 12oz/375ml size.

We also joined or local library this is close by and they have a great selection in the 4 affiliated libraries that exist in the Darwin area. As I mentioned they are also a great source for old BBC programs and Erica is managing to watch some of the BBC classics with me, I get the feeling she secretly likes them. Still it will be nice to be able to watch them on the big screen!

I think I mentioned we had to get private health insurance - it ain't cheap, but it's certainly cheaper than the USA. Joining the doctors seems a bit strange over here. It's not like the USA when you sign up with a doctor and have your primary care physician. You call up the medical centre and arrange an appointment. They will normally just try to fit you in with the least busy person. You can request someone specifically, which is what we think we will do in the future, it seems the people available immediately are the people others don't want to see! Erica got some tests done and they found salmonella. Well they didn't even invite her back to tell her or wouldn't tell her over the phone for 5 days! It seems like there is something wrong there for a disease where they have to notify public health officials! I managed to get a Medicare card; being British we have a reciprocal agreement with Australia. As a temporary resident though I only get emergency treatment, but if we ever became permanent residents we would be covered under the Nation Health System.

On a side note I really hope my new skills on the BBQ didn't contribute to Erica's salmonella!

We went back into the world of a landline, as it's not economical here to have a mobile phone as your only phone. I made a big mistake when we set up our phone and Jennifer our rep from Dodo won't stop calling me. I told her we may want Internet and she just kept calling back. I wouldn't mine but it took them 10 days before they even got our line connected and then we found out she'd given us the wrong number, which I had of course already passed out to everyone! It's getting that bad Erica thinks I've got a lady on the side! Getting a landline after living with only a mobile phone turns out to be terrible for the telemarketers, even though we can supposedly opt out, it seems like they now have our number and we get a constant barrage of marketers!

OK that's it for now next time I write we may even have a car and then we will be well and truly settled!


For anyone who is interested some of the birds we saw at these places include

Chestnut Breasted Manikins
Double Barrelled Finch
Fig Bird
White Bellied Cuckoo Shrike
Silver Crowned Friar Bird
Red-Backed Fairy Wren
Pheasant Coucal
Silver Gull
Bush Stone Curlew
Beach Stone Curlew
Red Capped Plover
Australian Hobby
Sacred Kingfisher
Whiskered Tern
Black winged stilt
Wood sand piper
Striated heron
Comb crested jacanas,
Egrets (Little, Intermediate, Great)
Willie wagtails,
Crimson finches,
Rainbow bee-eaters
Black faced cuckoo shrike
Little curlew
Red Headed Honey Eater
Northern Fantail
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